Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blog Review 2012

Blog Review

With the end of the year I want to review several of 2012 blogs.  

April 13th Knitting and Crochet Work

   In this discussion I introduced Bernice Pearl and Ethel Trujillo 2 fellow volunteers at the Southside Branch of the Santa Fe Public Library.  These two ladies and their “sewing  circles” produce hats, afghans, scarves and shawls which are donated to the needy, not only in Santa Fe but throughout New Mexico and as far as Guatemala and China.  This year alone Bernice knitted nearly 1000 warm, colorful hats for anyone who needed or (as frequently happened) requested one.  Ethel and her colleagues have supplied newborn hats and afghans and prayer shawls, numbering in the hundreds of hand crochet articles.
I asked anyone who had yarn to donate to please do so and the response was very much appreciated.  However, the need for yarn is ongoing as is their dedication.  If you are able to help you can contact me at

July 6th Molas
At the TSA Biennial this Sept (Sept 28th blog) I met a most delightful woman, Diana Marks, from Sydney, Australia who had just finished her PhD thesis on, you guessed it..Molas!! She presented a most interesting paper on the political implications in the history of Mola production by the Kuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama.
I just got a holiday greeting from Diana and she graduated with her doctorate degree on Dec. 12th..  What a great Christmas gift!!
If you have an interest in Mola textiles, I suggest you contact her at .

August 10th  Colcha Embroidery
There was a question posted regarding the motifs used by Santa Fe Colcherias regarding the prevalent use of floral designs.  According to Nina Wood, who was featured in the blog, Santa Feans are usually traditional (although some do create their own designs).  This tradition of florals came, of course, from the Spanish who had  historic connections with the Arab influence of the Ottoman Empire.  Stylized flowers dominated their art, and hence, can be seen in these elaborate embroideries.

  September 9th    Pirate Flags

   I had just posted this blog before attending TSA and you can image my delight at meeting ,at a session, a member who carried a crochet tote bag with a skull and crossbones design.  Needless to say this unique accessory created quite an interest.  Carol Ventura of Baxter, Tennessee has a business creating crochet patterns.  Carol’s work can be seen at

December 7th  Tenerrife lace

   Yesterday I met with friends to see a fantastic antique shop, Pegasus, way up in the Santa Fe hills…Way up!!! The day was bright and sunny and the view of the snowy mountains gave reason to why anyone would want to climb that dirt road.  The collection was nearly overwhelming with every type of antique and collectible imaginable.  Naturally I headed straight for the textiles.  Baskets of hankies and crochet work, bins of buttons and trims, drawers of lace.  There I found, right on top, this lovely Tenerrife doily.  I keep saying there are vintage textiles available, reasonably priced, you just have to look.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Traditions

Holiday Traditions

We are so very fortunate to be living in Santa Fe where there are many different cultures and traditions.  Especially around the holiday season there are concerts, ballet and dance performances.  The plaza is alight with decorated Christmas trees and a large menorah celebrating Hanukkah.  There are farolitos ( brown paper bags filled with sand and a lit candle, called lumenarias elsewhere) lighting roof tops and pathways.  This is also the time to celebrate Kwanzaa and the pueblos share their ritual dances and feast day traditions.

However you celebrate this season may your traditions bring you peace.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Christmas Cheater Cloth

A Christmas Cheater Cloth

Last night we had a snowfall in Santa Fe.  Not a lot, just enough to cover the ground.  Everyone was quite excited, firstly because we have had no moisture at all for months and secondly our weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, not very holiday-like to shop in tee shirts.

I was especially pleased because the topic for today is a piece of fabric over 150 years old that depicts the winter spirit.  This is a variation of what is termed “cheater cloth”.  In the mid to late 19thC there was a great interest in quilting.  Lovely fabric imported from England and France was readily available and piecework (patchwork, although strictly speaking the term “patchwork” refers to appliqué) replaced whole cloth quilts using small pieces of various printed fabrics.  Some fabric designers decided to replicate the look of piecework by printing a “pseudo” patchwork using different patterned and colored cloth in traditional quilt patterns.  This was, of course, just a variation of the whole cloth quilt, but quilters would use quilt stitches to make the pieces appear to have been separately sewn.

This is a beautiful example of a cheater, made even more impressive by the use of turkey red dye.

Popular, but short lived, was the use of luxurious fabrics such as velvet and silk to create what was termed “crazy quilting” which was embellished with ornate embroidery and the addition of small trinkets.  These textiles were never intended to be used for bedcovers as the fabrics were often too fragile for heavy wear and could not be cleaned.  Generally, they were for show, demonstrating the skills of the maker and draped over large pieces of furniture so popular at the time.

This winter cheater cloth, c 1840, shows various vignettes of outdoor activities, that are “patched” on a rich dark brown background with faux embroidered stitchery, and sprigs of holly as fillers. There is skating, tobogganing, ice hockey, ice sailing and a visit to the palace. My favorite is a patch of two men with kite-like sails on their backs skating over the ice.  I would imagine the wind filling the sails would result in their going backward rather than forward, but then what do I know of Victorian winter sports?

So maybe more snow is coming and skiers and skaters will rejoice

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tenerrife Lace

One class of textiles which exemplifies beauty and skill is lace.  Lace has a long history from the earliest forms of netting to the modern machine techniques which produce gossamer webs of threads.  Experts classify lace as either needle lace or bobbin lace but there are other textiles we consider as lace: knitted lace, Irish crochet lace, tatted lace edgings.  There are dozens and dozens of variations of lace, each with their unique characteristics.  This can be a bit confusing. 

The lace for today is known by several names: Tenerrife, spider, punta de Espana, and sol among others.  This lace is a Spanish handcraft from the 17th C for household use and was professionally produced in a 19thC revival. When used for ecclesiastical garments it was frequently embroidered with gold threads.  A form was also produced in Paraguay using silk threads.

In its simplest form these needle-woven circular patterns are formed by foundation threads that radiate from the center like a wheel with additional darning threads woven in different patterns around the circle.  These circles or spider webs are then joined together.

A pattern booklet issued by J. and P. Coats in Great Britain (date unknown) instructs making a circle out of cardboard and placing 32 pins at regular intervals around the circumference.  Thread is woven through the circle around the pins.  Additional threads are darned and knotted around the center of the web and the pattern radiates outward.

This kit for a “Polka Spider Web” was a product of the K & K Co., Chicago, Illinois, 1938 and included wooden forms (2 large and 2 small) onto which the thread is woven.  Note that there is also a pattern for making a square form (you can see this more clearly on the small forms).

Because pattern booklets and kits were very popular,  many of these handcrafted items
  can still be found in antique and thrift shops.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Shopping

OK, don’t hate me but I am finished with my holiday shopping!!! Of course I still have decorating and baking to do, cards to address, and a Post-Christmas Open House to plan but I enjoy all that.  I enjoy shopping too. No, I love shopping but I hate rushing around and then there is always that one person on the list who makes gift-giving an impossible mission.  Either he/she has everything (30 sets of salt and pepper shakers) or is a true minimalist who will probably re-gift anything they receive.  So I shop all year, especially when we travel.  To redeem myself let me give you a few suggestions in the event you are not finished with your gift list.

Naturally I’m talking textiles, especially vintage.  Look for anything monogrammed.  A set of initialed napkins for your god-daughter who just got married, an initialed pillow case with handmade crochet trim can become a sham cover for the bed, monogrammed hand towels for the guest bath. 

In the true spirit of the season, look for holiday linens.  If you are very lucky you may find a tablecloth from the 1940’s and 50’s.  Even if you find one with imperfections ( too many gravy stains) you can always use the good bits for placemats or napkin

Did you buy your mother-in-law a purse?  How about adding a Christmas handkerchief?

There are always lots of mats and doilies around.  Give one with a plate of cookies.

Look for vintage lace or crochet ornaments ( see my blog  Shadepulls and snowflakes Nov. 9th  ) and include them as a bookmark for that latest best seller.

Bobbin lace ornament

Short on time? Hit the nearest holiday craft fair.  They sprout up this time of year in nearly every school, church and community center.  They usually have an impressive array of unique, handmade items including small stocking stuffer ornaments.

So don’t stress!  Visit your nearest thrift store, consignment shop and school auditorium.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Velvet - A Fabulous Look

With the holiday season fast approaching some thought goes to what to wear for those dressy events.  One of the most popular fashion statements continues to be velvet, which has been popular for well over 800 years. The exact history of the manufacture of velvet is sketchy, but the prevailing evidence indicates that it originated along the fabled Silk Road and was brought west with the Arab invasion of North Africa and Eastern Europe.  By the Renaissance, Italy had become the leading center for its production. The term velvet comes from the Italian “vello” meaning fleece, “velluto” (velvet) means fleecy.

Actually, velvet is not one type of fabric, but rather a type of weave, a woven pile fabric, which can be made of different fibers including cotton, silk and rayon/acetate.  Other examples of pile fabrics include corduroy, velour, and terry cloth.  The weave is a supplementary warp over a plain weave ground.  Originally, once the ground was woven the supplementary warp was woven over thin, sharp rods.  When the rods were removed the warp was slit resulting in a pile, soft and luxurious. Different effects could be achieved by altering the height and texture of the pile.  The famous Italian “altobasseo” had varying pile heights against a gold ground.  When completely covered with pile the fabric is “solid”, when part of the pile is removed (now with chemicals) it is termed “voided”.  This voided silk velvet scarf shows the fine silk ground and areas of soft velvet pile.

This beautiful silk scarf shows the silk ground of peach and grey with the brown silk velvet pile voided in a design of stems and leaves,

Currently, velvet is made by a double-cloth method of weaving two cloths face-to-face with the separate pile threads joining the two layers creating a stable pile.  The pile is then cut with a knife creating two fabrics.  The pile is then trimmed, while the height of the pile may vary, true velvet is never longer than 1/8 inch. If it is 
longer, it is referred to as “plush”.

If the fiber used is cotton, the resulting fabric is called “velveteen” which produces a heavier textile more suitable for outerwear and upholstery because it does not have the draping quality of silk velvet.  Cotton velveteen is made with a supplementary weft ( not warp, like other fibers).

 Two samples of cotton velvet upholstery fabric

Velvet, especially made of silk or rayon/acetate can be embellished in many ways.  It can be embossed, crushed, batiked, painted and embroidered.

 This is a sample of a lighter, embroidered cotton velvet. While the drape is heavier than silk velvet it is still appropriate for apparel.

This is a sample of an embroidered rayon/acetate velvet, especially soft and lusturous

Regardless of what you choose to wear for the galas, I am sure you will look gorgeous!!!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Giving Thanks


It only takes a moment to be thankful for all our blessings

Have a great  holiday


Friday, November 9, 2012

Shade Pulls and Snowflakes

When I am asked what type of textiles are my personal favorites I have to admit that I love(and collect) small examples of hand work.  Crochet and tatted doilies, bits of patchwork and lace of all kinds. Actually my very, very favorite textile would be a 19thC Central Asian silk velvet ikat coat. But that , of course is out of the question.  What is well within my budget, and most other textile enthusiasts, are the bits and pieces .  They tell a much larger story than their size.  I am always amazed at the intricacy of the designs and the patience and time required to produce these little gems.  No matter if done by a proficient needle worker or a school girl in her first sewing class, these speak of loving intent and even the most unsophisticated (and often crude) attempt is a worthy treasure to be added to my collection.

Years ago small crochet and tatted pieces were very popular additions to the household.  Doilies of all sizes, from coaster size to placemats filled dining room drawers.  Small sachets filled with lavender hung in closets and needlework pulls adorned window shades.  These same shade pulls were often used as bookmarks and small ornaments, key fobs for armoires. I liken them to snowflakes because no two are exactly the same even though the patterns may be similar.  That is the beauty of handwork.

 crochet and tatted shade pulls

 shade pulls, curtain tie backs

small crochet doll shade pulls or ornaments

my shade pull snowflake wreath

Friday, November 2, 2012

Get Out The Vote

Since 1845 Election Day has been set as the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  This is the general election for federal offices, many states hold state and local elections on different dates.

In 1790 when the constitution was written only white male adults who were property owners were allowed to vote, although this was a very small percent of the population.
Beginning in the early 1800’s states began to drop the property ownership requirement and by 1850 nearly all adult white males could vote.

In 1870 the XV amendment was passed giving former slaves the right to vote, protecting the voting rights of every male adult.  “The right of citizens of the Untied States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous servitude.”


In 1920 the XIX amendment granted women to right to vote.  “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”  There is a very interesting article written by Jason Shaprio in El Palacio magazine (Fall 2012) which states that while New Mexico became a state in 1912 New Mexican women were not granted the vote until 1920.  Surprisingly, NM was the last western state to grant women’s suffrage.  According to Shapiro, “the states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Kansas, Oregon, Nevada and Oklahoma all granted women the right to vote prior to the passing of the 19th amendment.

In 1924 the Indian Citizenship Act granted all native Americans the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

This textile bag was used to store paper ballots in a 1960 election.

In 1961 the XXIII amendment allowed voters in the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections.

In 1971 the XXVI amendment set the minimum voting age at 18. “The rights of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years, or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age.” (In the 1972 election, 12,214,601 voters from age 18-24)

Textiles have been an expression of political thought since the beginning of political influence.  The recent biennial symposium of the Textile Society of America was entitled “Textiles and Politics” (See my blog , Sept. 28, 2012)   Not, I suppose, that early cave men wore campaign buttons but certainly when the ancient civilizations were formed there were visible forms of support for the government, but probably not visible forms of opposition.  In the modern political arena there are many “political” textiles, including banners, flags, quilts and bandannas.  Just because women weren’t able to vote, didn’t mean they were not interested in the political situation of the time and many examples of such quilt textiles with names such as Whigs’ Rose or Garfield’s Monument, many named after first Ladies.

This political campaign bandanna from the 1892 election features the images of the Democratic candidates Grover Cleveland and Adlai E. Stevenson

 It is not uncommon for foreign countries to produce textile art in support of US political figures.

This is not an endorsement!  I found this textile in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History Support Center. (See my blog, Oct. 4, 2012)  It was a gift from the People of Kenya.

Regardless of your affiliations, please exercise your right to vote.

Friday, October 26, 2012



“By the pricking of my thumbs-something wicked this way comes”
                Act IV Scene I  Macbeth

Halloween was always my favorite of all holidays.  I grew up in a small town and for two nights we could go trick-or-treating.  Nearly every porch light was on, indicating CANDY !  We would plan our itinerary around the houses with the best treat history (one man gave out nickels, so he was nearly always first.  5 cents won’t but a candy bar now, but back in the day…) My favorite treat was, and still is, tooth rotting candy corn.  Did you know that Oct 30th is national candy corn day?

But the real excitement was the choice of costumes.  Of course then, many costumes were home-made.  Also was the fact that it could be quite cold and a costume had to fit over a bulky jacket, eliminating tutus and other fairy outfits.  The history of wearing costumes is an old one.  Costumes both conceal one’s identity (necessary for holding up convenience stores) and reveal the personality and interests of the wearer.  It is fun to  engage children in a conversation regarding their upcoming choice of costumes.  As I have stated before I volunteer at our library’s children’s room and for several weeks now the main topic was not what are you going to wear but what you are going to be, indicating that, at least to children, a costume transforms them into princesses or super heroes.

Cotton, France, c 1880

Cotton, USA, c1930's

Cotton. England, c1875

Cotton, USA, 1950's

But children aren’t the only costume wearers.  According to Real Simple Magazine (Oct. 2012) “$310 million is the estimated amount Americans spent last year on pet costumes”.  There must be money out there somewhere.   The Wall Street Journal ( Wednesday, Oct.24, 2012) reported the best selling pet costumes by region: Northwest and Northeast, Bee; Midwest, Frog; Southeast, Lion; Southwest, Lady bug; and Mid South, Pumpkin.

So go out to your big box store, buy treats and turn on your porch light.  Maybe you should invite some neighbors in after the kids are in bed (costumes required) and finish off the left over candy and carve a pumpkin or two.

Photograph, Karen Tischer

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Starry, Starry Night

Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh, June, 1889
  Starry, Starry Night  "Paint your palette blue and grey" ,  Don McLean, "Vincent"

Living in New Mexico reveals the beauty of nature in a much different way that I had ever experienced living elsewhere.  One very special experience is called The Night Sky.  Looking up to the dark, night sky reveals an unbelievable cascade of stars, so many, that it appears as if thousands (no, hundreds of thousands) grains of white sand have been thrown up into the sky.  This is possible due to the altitude, lack of pollution and legislation passed by New Mexico in 1978 called the Night Sky Protection Act.  The purpose of this act “is to regulate outdoor night lighting fixtures to preserve and enhance the state’s dark sky…”  Without the distraction of glaring spotlights and neon signs (even the type of lighting for street lights is regulated) the night sky becomes a small glimpse of the universe, of the cosmos. While beautiful, for me, it is also frightening.  I simply cannot wrap my mind around the concept of infinity, of the concept of never-ending space.

I have a friend who not only is fascinated with these concepts, she embraces them into one of the most incredible forms of textile art. 

Debbe Goldberg’s petit point tapestries

 Like a Hurricane
 Happines Runs

 Here Comes the Sun

According her artist’s statement, Debbe states “My tapestries and the universe have become one and the same for me. Petit point is my art and space is my muse.  Each work is preceded by immersion in the most current images returned to earth by orbiting telescopes.  After being drawn to a particular subject I find as much information on the topic as possible before I attempt to capture its grandeur…(My process) begins with my research and ends when I have interpreted the image and its science.”

To read Debbe’s biography and view her gallery of tapestries please visit her website